On Saturday I picked up my husband and kids at the bus station. I’m sure this is not news to any of you who follow my ramblings; I’ve been writing about them since they left three weeks ago. A friend asked me if I had any great epiphany while everyone was gone. I’m not really that deep, but I definitely feel like I learned a few things while I was by myself for three weeks. Here’s some of what I realized.

1. Don’t be a hermit. It may seem okay when you have a family to focus completely on them, but imagine how alone you’ll feel if they all go on vacation without you?! Keep in touch with more of your friends! Call them more often! Stay connected.

2. Hug more, yell less. My kids were forever annoying me, and I found myself getting irritated and yelling at them pretty frequently. Then they were gone. For three weeks. Suddenly, those irritating things seemed pretty petty. They’ve only been here for a few days, but I feel like there are fewer things that are worth yelling about. Normal voices work pretty well. Hugs work even better. Yell less. Hug more.

3. Be grateful. There were days, I’ll admit, that I was miserable. The days that I appreciated a visit from a friend or relative, or a great phone call, or that I enjoyed some aspect of my work, were the best days. No matter how bad things might seem, find something to be happy about every day.

4. There are no small kindnesses. A neighbor’s hug, a friend’s call “just to check in,” your mom dropping off excellent dal soup…all of these things are huge. And become things to be happy about and grateful for (see #3 above).

5. There is no such thing as too much zucchini. Okay, so maybe this is silly, but I really did learn this! As the summer winds down you’ll find other opinions out there, but I respectfully disagree. Grate some fresh zucchini and sauté it with onion, garlic, and fresh basil, then use it to top pasta or pizza. Add grated, drained zucchini to your favorite brownie recipe, along with a generous handful of chocolate chunks. Everything is better with zucchini, especially if you can share it with your long-lost, travel-weary family!